Mt Piper waste to energy plan is “the least we can do”, says academic

ENERGY FLOW: Mt Piper Power Station. Picture: NICK MOIR.

 ENERGY FLOW: Mt Piper Power Station. Picture: NICK MOIR.

Research fellow at Charles Sturt University, Barney Foran, who specialises in low carbon energy said that investing in the use of landfill as a fuel for electricity production, an Australian first, at Mt Piper Power Station was a good idea.

He said that landfill processed for waste to energy schemes contains about 10 megajoules of energy per kilogram: a third of the energy contained in a litre of standard petrol, half of the energy of black coal and roughly the same energy content as brown coal.

“To me and many like me, rather than chucking all this stuff in a big hole in the dirt or desperately trying to find use of all the plastics we use it’s better to at least salvage the energy content in it. This is established practice in many areas of Europe, where things are a lot tighter, there’s more people and less land for waste,” Mr Foran said.

LEAST WE CAN DO: CSU Institute for Land, Water and Society researcher. Picture: SUPPLIED.

 LEAST WE CAN DO: CSU Institute for Land, Water and Society researcher. Picture: SUPPLIED.

He said the limited space in NSW as well as recent exposure of malpractice in the waste industry makes programs that reduce reliance on landfill imperative.

“The system is broken in its current state. Salvaging the energy content of what we can is the least that we can do.”

He said he is not surprised residents surrounding Mt Piper have concerns.

WASTE TO ENERGY: A waste processing plant selecting landfill for combustion fuel. Picture: SUPPLIED.

 WASTE TO ENERGY: A waste processing plant selecting landfill for combustion fuel. Picture: SUPPLIED.

 “I am sympathetic to that, but guessing you already have a power station and provided that there is management of the stuff going into the system and they’ve got scrubbers on the smoke stacks – this shouldn’t be any worse than what they are doing now.”

This year the Victorian government released a discussion paper to inform policy on waste to energy.

MT PIPER: File Image.

 MT PIPER: File Image.

 The paper said that combusting waste to produce electricity created residual bottom ash, fly ash, air pollution control residues and metals that needed to be managed.

“It is possible to recycle some of these residues… the residual outputs may end up in landfill. In some cases, residues may require careful and sometimes costly management,” it said.

“Like all waste management and treatment facilities, a waste to energy facility may impact upon the local community. Depending on the type of feedstock and the treatment methods used, odour, noise, local transport congestion and even dust and vermin can possibly be issues.”

The paper said a number of plants successfully operated in populated areas overseas, mentioning in particular a waste to electricity plant located in a dense residential suburb of Paris.